May 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

October Starred Reviews

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


Crowder, Melanie. Audacity. 400p. glossary. notes. Philomel. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399168994.

Gr 7 Up –Written in verse, this novel is loosely based on the life of Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the leader of New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. Clara and her family are Jewish Russians who flee the anti-Semitism of turn-of-the-century Russia to find a better life in America. However, Clara still experiences gender and religious oppression in New York. She is unable to gain the education she desires, because she is forced to work in a sweatshop, and she can’t rise above her given status as an immigrant worker because foreign women are taught only rudimentary English. But “Inside I am anything/ but fresh off the boat./ I have been ready for this/ possibility/ all my life,” Clara declares, and she proves that she has the audacity to do the impossible for a female and a Jew: organizing a woman’s union and ultimately having her voice heard. The verse form of the narrative lends lightness to an otherwise bleak topic and moves the story along quickly, while artful formatting of the text creates and sustains mood. This book stands alone in its topic and time frame, with only Michelle Markel’s picture book Brave Girl (HarperCollins, 2013) as a nonfiction companion. With historical notes, interviews with Clara’s family members, and a glossary of Yiddish terms, Audacity is an impactful addition to any historical fiction collection.–Brittany Staszak, Glencoe Public Library, IL

Gay, Marie-Louise. Any Questions? illus. by Marie-Louise Gay. 60p. House of Anansi/Groundwood. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554983827.

K-Gr 2 –Authors are asked many questions at school and library visits, such as “How many books have you written?” and “Where do your ideas come from?” In answering the question “Where does a story start?” the author/illustrator in this charming picture book demonstrates the method she uses for inspiration. Explaining that a thought can travel in many directions or go nowhere at all, Gay shows how opening up her mind can trigger an idea for a story. She begins by composing and illustrating a tale entitled “The Shy Young Giant” and midway through invites three children to assist her in continuing the fiction. The story-within-a-story technique makes the writing process clear, informative and fun. The kids have such a good time writing and drawing that when the story ends, they’re excited to begin another. Engaging illustrations, in watercolor, pencil, pastels, and collage, feature speech bubbles, handwritten notes, and childlike sketches. Gay’s delightful creation reveals how the combination of children’s natural curiosity and imagination can be the perfect springboard for a story.–Maryann H. Owen, Children’s Literature Specialist, Mt. Pleasant, WI

Griffin, Bethany. The Fall. 432p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062107855; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062107879.

Gr 8 Up–Griffin offers an alternative take on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Instead of assuming the viewpoint of an outsider, as in the source material, readers get into the mind of Madeline Usher—the girl buried alive in the original tale. The author uses flashbacks to flesh out the missing details and provide backstory. This is an engrossing, creepy tale of a haunted house and its inhabitants. For those who aren’t familiar with Poe’s short story, this title will inspire them to run to the shelves to find it and see what happens or what is different. Those who are already familiar with it will enjoy this different point of view and ending. Altogether, the narrative’s even pacing and thorough character development will keep teens engaged. The updated, supernatural spin will have savvy and reluctant readers hooked. An interesting addition to the “twisted tales” genre, for librarians looking for back doors to lead teens into the classics. Fans of the author’s Masque of the Red Death (HarperCollins, 2012) will especially appreciate this title.–Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ

Haughton, Chris. Shh!: We Have a Plan. illus. by Chris Haughton. 40p. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763672935.

PreS-Gr 2–In a gorgeous nocturnal landscape of deep purples and blues, four figures go marching along. The three big ones are holding nets, and the little one trails slightly behind. Suddenly, they spy a bright pink bird in the tree. “Hello, birdie,” calls the little one. “Shh,” reprimands the first one. “SHH!” hisses the next. “We have a plan,” explains the third, holding up a birdcage. They tiptoe towards the bird with hilariously expressive body language until, “ready one…ready two…ready three…GO!” But the bird easily evades them, and the three end up in a tangle while the little one looks on. The scenario and “shhs” repeat, and finally, while the big ones are literally down the creek without a paddle, the little one makes friends. In a breathtakingly rich spread, a flock of colorful, jewel-toned birds appear and drive the schemers into retreat. Echoing the opening, the big ones quick-step along under the moonlit sky, nervously glancing behind them and dragging the little one along. The story seems over, but they haven’t quite learned their lesson yet. A masterful delight, this crafty caper has huge kid appeal and a title/refrain that will easily sneak into the family lexicon: shh! We have a plan. This perfect blend of circular narrative, deceptively spare art, and humor becomes a story that kids will want to read at storytime, at home, and to themselves if no adult is handy. Plan to make this title a first purchase.–Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN

Jeffers, Oliver. Once upon an Alphabet. illus. by Oliver Jeffers. 112p. Philomel. Oct. 2014. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780399167911.

Gr 1-4–Jeffers’s empathic nature, evident from his sympathetic renderings of Drew Daywalt’s beleaguered crayons in The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, 2013), here extends to the hardworking letters. This eccentric and entertaining anthology is introduced by an eloquent syllogism about the relationship of letters, words, and stories. While each four-page tale showcases a (seemingly) hand-drawn capital and lowercase letter, and many of the words—and unnamed objects—begin with the corresponding letter, this is not your mother’s abecedarium. It is a framework for Jeffers’s intriguing worldview, combining ludicrous juxtapositions and situations and a great capacity for gentleness. Some passages are scientific: “Mary is made of matter….she got sucked through a microscope and became the size of a molecule.” The facing page shows Mary floating under the lens. The blackboard-style background is filled with “molecular” diagrams (mattresses, a moose, mums). Other sections are a mite macabre: “Jack Stack the Lumberjack has been struck by lightning one hundred and eleven times….” The lightning illuminates a skeleton, but after the page turn, the man appears in his jammies, normal, except that he can provide his own electricity. There is humor in the alliteration and mixed-media scenes: a puzzled parsnip, Victor the vanquished “plotting his vengeance,” and an enigma featuring elephants and envelopes. The author respects his readers’ intelligence, inserting expansive vocabulary, cameos from characters in previous books, people and plot threads that cross stories, and quiet details to discover in subsequent readings. An altogether stimulating, surprising, and satisfying reading experience.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

Johnston, Tony. Winter Is Coming. illus. by Jim LaMarche. 40p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442472532.

PreS-Gr 2–An empty sketchbook, freshly sharpened pencils, and binoculars set the stage for this luminous story about the powerful magic of being still and experiencing the natural world. Sitting in her tree house, using all her senses to witness the changing season, a girl sketches a variety of Northern animals and notes their habits as they forage for food. The short journal entries combine poetry with pragmatism, resulting in spare, elegant observations about nature: “Dawn burns the sky./A flock of wild turkeys jostles by./They poke everyplace, muttering/food, food, food.” Although the variety of animals that she sees within a single season is rather implausible, the respect she has for nature and the life cycle keep the text grounded: “I know animals/are best left alone./Maybe the deer will find enough food./Maybe not./ Soon they move on, nibbling.” Gorgeous acrylic and colored pencil illustrations show the wonder that the girl feels and evoke the experience of witnessing the layers of the natural world slowly revealing themselves as apparent stillness becomes full of life—wind rustling leaves, birds chirping, and scurrying insects. This book unflinchingly faces the fact that the cold is coming, the lean season is approaching, and there are endings within the cycle of life. A touching reminder about the beauty of the natural world.–Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN

Perkins , Stephanie , ed. My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. 336p. St. Martin’s Griffin. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250059307; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466863897.

Gr 7 Up–Twelve of the best-loved and best-known young adult authors–Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, and Matt de la Peña among them–have contributed stories to this appealing collection. Most have a Christmas setting, but Hanukkah, the winter solstice, and New Year’s Eve are also represented. Most are realistic, but Holly Black, Kelly Link, Jenny Han, and Laini Taylor have contributed tales steeped in fantasy or the supernatural. What all 12 selections have in common is teen romance at its most fragile and meaningful. Never mind the winter holidays; booktalk this title all year round.–Virginia Walter, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Pilcher, Steve. Over There. illus. by Steve Pilcher. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. 2014. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9781423147930.

PreS-Gr 2–Part of a series of collaborations between Pixar Animation Studios and Disney Worldwide Publishing, this story of found friendship follows Shredder, a lonely shrew who sets out to find if there is something more to life “over there.” Attracted by a reflection of light, Shredder leaves the safety of his home to explore the big world. His progress is halted when he comes upon a body of water. Coincidentally, the shiny object that drew his attention in the first place is an aluminum tin that he uses as a boat. Sadly, it is not exactly seaworthy. However, before he can drown, a mole named Nosey comes to his rescue. Because they have so much in common, the two become fast friends. Bonded together by a love of digging, similar fashion choices, and food, the shrew and mole find that companionship makes life so much sweeter. The story is told through a combination of the cinematic illustrations and the simplistic text. Children and adults alike will appreciate this story with its stunning, dark illustrations, endearing characters, and cinematic spreads that propel the story forward. Highly recommended.–Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh, PA

RUNDELL, Katherine. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. 256p. S. & S. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442490611; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442490635. LC 2013021053.

Gr 4-6–Twelve-year-old Wilhelmina Silver—aka Will, Wildcat, Madman, Cartwheel—has what she considers to be an idyllic life. Since her mother’s death when she was five, she has been “raised” on a remote farm in Zimbabwe by her father, the farm foreman. She has been free to explore and run like the wind; ride bareback on her horse, Shumba; and has a pet monkey to keep her company. She is at home in the bush and sleeps in trees, if necessary, and routinely steals fruit and sets fires with her best friend Simon and the rest of the farm boys. She’s a good reader and keen observer, but her formal education has been sketchy at best. The things she knows to be true are not easily quantified or necessarily valued. When her father dies, she is left in the care of Captain Browne, the kindly farm owner, and his scheming and manipulative new wife. When it is announced that the farm is to be sold and Will is to be sent to a private school in England, the girl’s golden world is shattered. Leaving behind all that she has known and loves and adjusting to a cold, inhospitable climate is just part of her challenge. She has always been a quick study and a fierce competitor and there is no place for her to shine in the snooty, highly regimented school. Driven by desperation and the girls’ cruelty, Will runs away and has to work out for herself what is real, valuable, and true. Rundell’s vivid and compelling prose brings both worlds to life on a visceral level and propels her characters forward. Readers will be engaged by Will’s voice (and her colorful linguistic twists), ache for her through her sorrow and loss, and celebrate her newly sparked confidence and resolve. Warning: there will be cartwheels!—Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Smelcer, John. Edge of Nowhere. 154p. Leapfrog. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781935248576.

Gr 7 Up–Sixteen-year-old Seth Evanoff mourns his mother’s unexpected death. For comfort, he eats more than his share of junk food and escapes from life through a portal of video games on his tablet. Seth works with his father on a commercial salmon fishing boat in the Prince William Sound, and during a storm, he and his loyal dog, Tucker, are tossed into the drink. So begins the coming-of-age journey of Seth and Tucker as they toil and swim among a chain of remote islands toward home. Seth uses wisdom from his Native Alaskan culture and common sense to survive a summer season of challenges. Smelcer’s prose is lyrical, straightforward, and brilliant. This is an example of authentic Native Alaskan storytelling at its best. Readers are drawn immediately into this realistic modern-day vision-quest scenario and easily identify and empathize with the characters. The excitement and fast pace of the action are reminiscent of Jack London stories. This novel would make a versatile addition to any secondary English or multicultural curriculum. Not to be missed.–Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL

Stein, David Ezra. I’m My Own Dog. illus. by David Ezra Stein. 32p. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763661397. LC 2013952833.

PreS-Gr 2–The typical pet picture book is turned on its ear in this witty and charming story. This independent pooch proudly takes care of himself: “I curl up at my own feet. Sometimes, if I’m not comfortable, I tell myself to roll over.” He scoffs at the pets who follow commands and demonstrates how he throws and fetches his own stick, “it’s fun.” His life is pretty perfect…except for the itch on his back that he just can’t reach. When a friendly person scratches the itch for him, then follows him home, the little canine can’t help but adopt him. Young readers will get a kick out of the reversed human-pet roles, which are cheerfully and animatedly illustrated in pen and “hacked” kids’ marker and colored with watercolor and crayon. The cartoonlike drawings perfectly illuminate the life and attitudes of this canine character, from his contented chewing on a slipper to his joyful, bowlegged run during a game of fetch. Minimal text makes this a great read-aloud for listeners with short attention spans, while the humor will tickle older kids and grown-ups.–Marian McLeod, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, CT

Stroud, Jonathan. The Whispering Skull. 448p. (Lockwood & Co.: Bk. 2). Disney-Hyperion. 2014. lib. ed. $17.99. ISBN 9781423164920; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781484711460.

Gr 5-8–In this spine-chilling sequel to The Screaming Staircase (Hyperion, 2013), Stroud again demonstrates his ease in the world of the macabre and truly frightening. Lucy works for Lockwood & Co., one of many agencies dealing with The Problem. Fifty years ago, for no apparent reason, the dead rose and began to walk among the living. Agencies employ psychic children to help dispatch the dead permanently. In this second installment, the group (Lucy, leader Anthony Lockwood, and bumbling researcher George) finds themselves drawn deeper into the mystery of The Problem. A supposedly simple job dispatching an unruly cemetery ghost leads to the discovery of black markets, obsessive cults, mysterious collectors, and a bone mirror that drives anyone who looks into it completely mad. As in the first novel, the descriptions of the different types of spirits are nightmarishly frightening (one episode with rat-ghosts is especially gruesome.) Lucy’s growing abilities to communicate with the dead, especially the nasty spirit attached to a skull in Lockwood’s home, add an additional layer of menace to an already creepy tale; Lockwood’s secrets add intrigue and suspicion. The plot gallops along at a breakneck pace, giving little respite from the horrors within. For fans of scary fare, this page-turner is a dream (or nightmare) come true.–Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

Underwood, Deborah. Here Comes Santa Cat. illus. by Claudia Rueda. 88p. Dial. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803741003. LC 2013035538.

PreS-Gr 3–The delightfully self-centered mischievous feline from Here Comes the Easter Cat (Dial, 2014) is back! He’s been naughty and believes Santa will skip him, so he dresses as Santa to give himself a present. A patient narrator advises Cat that Santa gives to others, not himself. After many silly and ridiculous attempts, Cat gives something nice, learning the true meaning of giving and receiving. Readers will enjoy the playful exchange between the narrator and Cat, the expressive full-color ink and colored-pencil cartoonlike illustrations, and the nicely resolved ending. Great for reading one-on-one or in small groups.–Maureen Wade, Los Angeles Public Library

Van Leeuwen, Jean. The Missing Pieces of Me. 240p. Amazon/Two Lions. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781477847299; pap. ISBN 9781477816189.

Gr 4-6–This is the poignant story of sensitive Weezie, who is growing up in an 1980’s Oklahoman trailer park with an overworked and unloving Mama. The fifth-grader is nearly convinced that she is a completely bad person, thanks to her mother’s uncompromising expectations and lack of affection, combined with her own penchant for lying to protect herself from the other kids’ curiosity about her life. Van Leeuwen beautifully balances dialogue with action and the internal narrative of her hero to create a forward-moving tale that will carry readers along, feeling alternately sad and proud for Weezie all the way. All of the secondary characters are simple, defined by one or two primary characteristics, but feel full-bodied thanks to the variation in their voices and thoughtful details, such as the teacher who “ran her fingers through her hair, making it stand out like a dark cloud around her head… when she was thinking.” Unlike many protagonists of this age group, Weezie is on the innocent and naive side, and nothing shockingly bad or jarringly uncomfortable happens. Ultimately, this quiet book reveals the capacity for good within the characters—despite the hard and unyielding heart of Weezie’s mother—and leaves readers with a sense of empathy and understanding about the importance of self-confidence. Recommended for readers who can handle getting emotionally involved with their protagonists, such as fans of Karen Hesse.–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Back to Top



Bryant, Jen. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 42p. bibliog. chron. further reading. Eerdmans. 2014. Tr $17.50. ISBN 9780802853851.

Gr 2-5–Those who have relied upon a thesaurus (meaning treasure house in Greek), either in print or through the tool menu of word processing software, will gain a greater appreciation for the reference tool in this beautifully designed picture book biography of its creator, Peter Roget. Bryant describes bibliophile Roget, taking him from a timid, studious child who was always compiling lists to an accomplished doctor who by 1805 had compiled the beginnings of the first thesaurus. Busy and exuberant, Sweet’s charming watercolor illustrations, layered over collages of vintage images and fonts, capture Roget’s passion for classification while also providing readers new opportunities for discovery (Latin translations of animal names, mathematical terms, and a plethora of synonyms). Expertly researched and well written, Bryant’s narrative not only details the creation of the thesaurus; it also conveys a sense of Roget the man: his shy nature, his keen intelligence, and his passion for knowledge. There truly was a particular blend of artistry and intellect that went into Roget’s book, as evidenced from a reproduced page from the original thesaurus. The book contains extensive back matter, including an incredibly detailed time line that goes into the man’s other inventions (the slide rule, the pocket chess set) and an author and illustrator’s note, as well as Roget quotations that are sure to inspire if not a love of language then at least a search for the perfect turn of phrase. An excellent illustrated biography.–Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

McCarthy, Meghan. Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs. illus. by Meghan McCarthy. 48p. bibliog. photos. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481406376; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481406383.

K-Gr 3–This picture book charts the evolution of the earmuff. McCarthy starts in the 18th century, discussing the ways that various inventors improved on one another’s designs, until Chester Greenwood made one last tweak to the wire headband and applied for a patent. Woven into the narrative is a description of patents. Children will also come away with a greater understanding of the nature of inventions. The book ends with a brief biography of Chester Greenwood and a section about the dedicated citizens in the state of Maine who lobbied for a Chester Greenwood Day (made official in 1977). Back matter includes an author’s note, a note about patents, and a photo of the annual Chester Greenwood Day parade in Farmington, Maine. Rendered in acrylic paint, the illustrations are appealingly cartoonlike, portraying people with exaggerated round eyes and faces, and complement the concise but upbeat text (“[Isaac Kleinert] also made dress guards, which protected ladies’ clothing from sweat. Ew!”). A solid addition for those seeking titles about inventors and inventions.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Rockliff, Mara. Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. illus. by Vincent X. Kirsch. 32p. notes. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544130012.

Gr 1-4–A little-known figure from the American Revolution era is given a fresh look for another generation of history lovers. This book relates the tale of a generous, beloved, and industrious member of the Philadelphia community, originally from Germany, referred to as “the baker.” The book centers on his insistence upon joining the war effort, despite being told he’s too old and fat. George Washington put the baker to work baking bread for the troops and eventually sent him on a special mission to convince the mercenary Hessian soldiers to abandon the English army. Rockliff’s dialogue-laden text is accessible, even humorous at times (“General Washington did not say the baker was old and fat. General Washington was too polite. Anyway, he had other troubles on his mind.”). Rendered in watercolor, the charming illustrations aptly depict the people and objects as gingerbreadlike, using a palette of warm, cinnamon tones and sugary white lines that detail the free-floating, cut-paper shapes. Repetitive shapes with a lack of depth complete the cookie illusion. The simple recipe on the end pages offers options for different skill levels. Back matter, including a list of sources, provides fuller detail and context as well as the baker’s name: Christopher Ludwick. A sweet addition to Revolutionary War units where a more behind-the-scenes look is desired and a nonfiction twist on gingerbread-themed storytimes.–Carol S. Surges, formerly at Longfellow Middle School, Wauwatosa, WI

Turner, Ann. My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth. illus. by James Ransome. 40p. further reading. HarperCollins. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780060758981; lib. ed. $18.99. ISBN 9780060758998.

Gr 1-4–This picture book biography tackles the life of former slave and abolitionist Isabella Baumfree, better known as Sojourner Truth. Turner details the life of this pivotal figure, who was born into slavery in the late-18th century in New York, along with 11 siblings, all of whom were sold off. The account is told in first-person narrative, with Truth discussing how her different owners treated her and how she seized freedom for herself when one of them broke his promise to free her. Her journey culminated in her work as a preacher, and many spreads are dedicated to Truth displaying her power, passion, and poise as a speaker, spreading her antislavery message wherever she went. Turner makes effective use of dialect, and the well-crafted text reads like poetry or a monologue (“‘Welcome,’ they said/had anyone ever said that word to me before?/and showed me a fine wide room with a white bed to sleep in/I never slept in a bed before”). Rich, painterly watercolor illustrations effectively reflect the pain of Truth’s past and the lyrical nature of her narrative, while the use of different fonts highlights the most crucial parts of the narrative. Those who are already somewhat familiar with Truth will get the most out of this book, and educators will find the author’s note helpful in explaining this historical figure to students. A wonderful addition to collections of African American history that will also work well as a read-aloud.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Back to Top



Gordon, Jean M., ed. The Gallaudet Children’s Dictionary of American Sign Language. illus. by Debbie Tilley. 384p. diag. index. w/DVD. Gallaudet Univ. 2014. Tr $39.95. ISBN 9781563686313. LC 2014004275.

K-Gr 4–This long-anticipated and colorfully designed reference work is the first comprehensive American Sign Language dictionary for children published to date. It boasts more than 1,000 signs and includes a searchable DVD, which features young native signers demonstrating each sign and 150 of the practice sentences. Each entry takes up a third of a page and includes the word in bold red. Arranged alphabetically, the words are searchable with a thumb guide and represent a combination of sight words, familiar words, and words relating to animals, major holidays, sports, and school. An important aspect for both Deaf and hearing students are the synonyms listed directly underneath many entries. Since one sign stands for a variety of synonyms, this will help learners develop vocabulary. For example, under the term fake, readers will find the words imposter, pseudo, artificial, and counterfeit. A watercolor illustration humorously depicts the word and is accompanied by a corresponding sentence. The signs are clearly illustrated in black-and-white line drawings of children. The hands and forearms are in bold, resulting in a very clear picture of how to form the sign. Tips about ASL and Deaf culture and etiquette take the place of a word now and then in “Now You Know” boxes. The comprehensive introduction relays important information about ASL, including regional differences, and explains the arrows used to depict the motions of the signs. Highly recommended.

–Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City

Robinson, Mark A. The World of Musicals: An Encyclopedia of Stage, Screen, and Song. 2 vol. 877p. bibliog. ebook available. index. photos. reprods. Greenwood. 2014. Tr $189. ISBN 9781440800962; ebk. ISBN 9781440800979. LC 2013030274.

Gr 9 Up–Authored by a performance arts educator, this set for high school, college, and professional collections focuses specifically on U.S. musicals, including more than 500 television, Broadway, and movie titles, close to 200 individuals, and affiliated organizations, topics and more. Whether readers are looking for information on The Wizard of Oz (the movie or the play), Jim Henson, the Tony Awards, or the TKTS Booth, this volume will provide enough information to satisfy basic research needs as well as offer a jumping-off point for further exploration. Entries for titles include the date of production; the network, studio, or theater associated with it; writers, composers, lyricists; directors and choreographers; cast; songs; plot, history; information on securing performance rights; and a bibliography. Also included are a lengthy introduction with a history of the American musical and 10 appendixes offering lists of the most popular musicals performed by high schools, musical suggestions for schools looking for a challenge, audition songs, theatrical-rights licensing agencies, Broadway theaters, songs that have won the Academy Award, and longest-running Broadway musicals. Well researched and well documented, this book is an excellent addition to theater collections, whether for professionals or for the general public wanting to know more about American musicals, past and present.–Sara Marcus, Queensborough Community College Library, Bayside, NY

Back to Top

Professional Reading

BIRD, Betsy, Julie Danielson, & Peter D. Sieruta. Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature. 288p. bibliog. illus. index. notes. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780763651503; ebk. ISBN 9780763667719. LC 2013946618.

Three popular kidlit bloggers take readers on a wild ride through children’s literature that is as entertaining as it is educational. Like the tone of their respective blogs, the writing style is breezy and conversational. Fans and students of children’s literature will learn a lot, be entertained, and come away with interesting trivia and anecdotes. For instance, readers will learn the secret identities of some famous authors who wrote under pseudonyms before they became well known. But what really stands out is hinted at in the subtitle, “acts of mischief in children’s literature.” The authors do a fine job of debunking the notion that children’s literature is all “fuzzy bunnies” and “pots of honey.” As explored throughout the text, great works of children’s literature provide a way of coping with childhood issues by offering a world that is just as complicated and tough as the one adults live in. The authors’ knowledge shines through and with its extensive source notes and a thorough index, this title is not to be missed. A perfect choice for children’s literature courses.–Renee McGrath, Nassau Library System, Uniondale, NY

GHOTING, Saroj Nadkarni & Kathy Fling Klatt. STEP into Storytime: Using StoryTime Effective Practice to Strengthen the Development of Newborns to Five-Year-Olds. 368p. further reading. index. websites. ALA Editions. 2014. pap. $57. ISBN 9780838912225. LC 2014004162.

This effective manual focuses on using StoryTime Effective Practice (STEP) to strengthen the development of newborns to five-year-olds. STEP is an approach that combines the background knowledge of children’s books with factors such as emotional, social, physical, cognitive, and language skill development for children. This important resource discusses how to deploy the STEP philosophy with library staff as well as how to communicate the practices to parents and caregivers. Competencies and applications are demonstrated in in-depth chapters that show readers just how simple it is to incorporate this practice into every storytime. Using the Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) approach, ideas and suggestions are given to lead a STEP storytime. Included in the manual are 30 storytime guides that are categorized by age groups. These guides provide program ideas that include opening songs, reading suggestions, parenting tips for early literacy development, and extension activities all within a particular theme. This book is a valuable resource and one that should be a part of every professional development collection for youth services staff. It is a refreshing take on library program guides that offers an accessible method of reinvigorating storytimes while providing deeper insight into early literacy development.–Allison Santos, Princeton Public Library, NJ

Back to Top

From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog

BERNSTEIN, Nell. Burning Down the House: The End of Youth Prison. 319p. Free Press. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781595589569. LC 2013043709.

Bernstein outlines the history of juvenile “reform” schools, the rise and fall of the rehabilitative model, and the reality of what happens behind bars to already traumatized teens: further physical, sexual, and mental abuse. The author takes a look at solitary confinement practices, “therapeutic prisons,” and juvenile reentry. Using solid teen developmental theory and research, United Nations findings, and trauma informed care, this title articulately sets forth the argument against the imprisonment of children. A passionate advocate for young people, Bernstein highlights teen voices and experiences throughout the book, adding humanity and insight to the statistics. Burning Down the House does for young people what Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (New Press, 2010) did for adults: brings this issue to national attention. Readers meet influential adults such as Jerome Miller, who closed down the entire system in Massachusetts in the ‘70s, and Gladys Carrion, Chief Commissioner of New York, who not only closed down 18 state facilities by 2012 and halved the number of incarcerated kids, but also diverted $74 million to support community-based alternatives to incarceration. Teens interested in history, social sciences, and one of the biggest issues facing young adults in the U.S. will find lots to love in this book.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

DUFFY, Chris, ed. Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics. illus. by various. First Second. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781626720657. LC 2014029047.

In this haunting graphic novel, editor Duffy has collected 25 poems written during World War I—most by the so-called “Trench Poets,” men who fought and in some cases died in the trenches of Western Europe—and asked some of today’s finest comic artists to illustrate them. While the vast majority of the poems can be categorized as anti-war, their tones and styles range from the lyrical, contemplative verse of Thomas Hardy (at 74 years old decidedly not a trench poet) to the densely bitter barrages of Wilfred Owen. And the illustrations show a similar range of styles. Most of the artists opt for fairly traditional panelled cartoons, though the art can range from grittily realistic to more traditional comic mannerisms. And some artists, such as George Pratt and Stephen R. Bissette abandon panels entirely to create darkly expressionistic backgrounds for their spreads. In addition to the primary poems, Duffy includes several soldiers’ songs—popular, often bawdy, and irreverent songs sung by soldiers in the war—all illustrated in a jokey comic style by Hunt Emerson. The result of this hodgepodge of techniques and tones is nothing short of a masterpiece: at once a reimagining and reinterpretation of some of the great poetry of the early 20th Century for those who have already encountered it, and an ideal introduction to the facts and the literature of World War I for teens who have not.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

Back to Top



Ernest & Celestine. Dist. by Cinedigm. 2014. $34.95. UPC 025192222030.
K-Gr 4Ernest is a hungry bear who is working his way through winter hibernation, and Celestine is a young mouse who collects teeth for a dentist but who dreams of a more creative life. In their world, Ernest and Celestine have been taught that bears and mice never mix, since bears are big and bad and eat little mice, whereas mice are disgusting little thieves who infest a home. The two become unlikely friends through a series of misadventures in which they break down these stereotypes, beginning when Celestine shows Ernest where to find food in exchange for not being eaten by him. When the two are driven out of their respective communities for stealing food and teeth (in a macabre subplot), they begin a new life together, finding a friendship that they didn’t believe was possible. Their peace is broken when the mice capture Ernest and the bears take Celestine into custody. The film culminates in two simultaneous courtroom scenes, where both Celestine and Ernest defend their friendship while challenging the prejudice of the community. Only when the courtrooms catch fire and both Ernest and Celestine act as heroes do the members of the communities open their hearts and minds. This sweet story, with subtle but beautiful watercolor animation, will tug at heartstrings. The voice actors (including the late Lauren Bacall) bring verve to the characters. This is clearly an allegory about prejudice and racism, and even young viewers will understand that stereotypes are unfair and that it is better to be kind. With its heartwarming, relatable characters and important message about love, it is no wonder that this film was nominated earlier this year for an Academy Award for best animated feature.–Jenny Ventling, Greene County Public Library, OH

The Girls in the Band. Dist. by Kino Lorber Edu. 2013. $99. UPC 823857178124

Gr 6 UpWhat was conspicuous about women jazz musicians in the big band era was their near absence. Those lucky enough to be asked to sit in with a band were not accepted by male peers and had short tenures. How women broke into the world of jazz, as revealed in this exceptional documentary, is poignant and disturbing. The resulting all-women orchestras enjoyed fewer bookings and lower pay than their male counterparts. The film focuses on the early days when women’s orchestras, facing gender discrimination, were forced to wear ridiculous costumes, required to have long hair, and told to smile, as if their worth as musicians was secondary to their glamourous images. Personal interviews and historic film clips vividly reveal the struggles these women faced. Especially moving are the story of a young white woman, Rosalind Cron, who joined the predominantly African American International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and the perils of touring in the Jim Crow South. Also covered are the years during World War II, when work was easier to find, and the impact of the feminist movement of the 1970s. There is a wealth of extras, including extended interviews with these trailblazers and advice for women who aspire to work in the field. An accompanying teachers’ guide provides a rich resource of ideas for classroom extension, and a flash drive has online links to even more resources. This provocative and entertaining film will enlighten student viewers across many disciplines.–Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, OH

Havana Curveball. Dist. by PatchWorks Films. 2014. $89 (with PPR). $39.95 (no PPR). ISBN 3621179767.

Gr 5 Up– In this documentary, how can Cuba, baseball, a bar mitzvah, and a grandfather be connected into one fabulous story? For his upcoming bar mitzvah, Mica Schneider from California’s Bay Area decides to send baseball equipment to Cuba for his community service project. (He loves baseball.) His grandfather lived in the island nation as a child refugee from Nazi Germany, which led to the idea for this project. Due to political embargoes, Mica’s generous donations for Cuban children can’t be directly shipped. Determination propels his family on a road trip up to Canada, where the packages can be legally sent. Months go by with no word that the parcels have been delivered, and Mica teeters on defeat. Undaunted, he seeks out philanthropic agencies that provide aid to Cuba, and eventually he and his journalist father travel there. Grandfather declines the invitation to join them, another emotional setback for Mica, but father and son arrive in Cuba to distribute more sports equipment. There the teen meets enterprising Cuban boys who are also crazy for baseball. They play with masking-taped balls and cardboard mitts, so Mica’s new or used donations are met with extreme excitement, even greed. All the emotional “bases” are voiced by Mica in his sage, prescient narration. The beautiful interlacing of cultural traditions and baseball’s appeal make this an inspiring tale. Directed by Mica’s filmmaker parents, Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, this film superbly demonstrates what one 13-year-old can do to overcome daunting obstacles and make the world a better place.–Robin Levin, U.S. Holocaust Museum

Back to Top


CLEMENTS, Andrew. The Map Trap. S. & S. Audio. 2014. $14.99. ISBN 9781442357013. digital download.

Gr 3-6– Alton Ziegler is crazy about maps. He particularly loves the way they can visually display any manner of information in a variety of ways. Surreptitiously, he collects data and creats humorous maps detailing such trivia as the popularity of lunchroom tables (depicted as a topographical map of the cafeteria) or a weather map of a teacher’s clothes. Striped tie today? Look out—the probability of a pop quiz is high. He never meant for anyone to see his collection, but when it’s “mapnapped,” there’s no telling where the road might lead. Keith Nobbs is perfectly cast as the narrator. He creates a pensive Alton that fits the mood of the story. Clements’s (In Harm’s Way) use of subjective third-person narration is interesting in that the listener is privy to the inner concerns not only of Alton but of his teacher Miss Wheeling as well. Rarely is a teacher’s perspective presented with such honesty and clarity in a middle grade novel. Though Nobbs’s voice sometimes cracks when portraying female characters, his delivery, nonetheless, is still pleasing and believable. The Map Trap is a thoughtful, holistic look at the middle school environment that will have wide appeal.–Lisa ­Taylor, Ocean County Library, NJ

COLFER, Chris. A Grimm Warning. (The Land of Stories: Bk. 3). Hachette Audio. 2014. $25. ISBN 9781478955801. digital download.

Gr 4 Up– This delightful installment brings listeners back into Colfer’s (The Enchantress Returns) unique fairy tale realm with twins Conner and Alex Bailey. Alex has settled into her training as a fairy godmother, while Conner is forced to work his way through school trying to be “normal,” which is very difficult when you have fairy blood. When brand-new Brothers Grimm tales are discovered in Germany, Conner’s interest is piqued. It’s lucky that his class is heading there on a field trip, even luckier that his crush, Bree, is going as well. As the Grimms’ tales are read, Conner realizes these stories are warnings about events that’ll happen 200 years in the future—which is TODAY. Frantic, Conner must find a way back to the Land of Stories to warn his sister and grandmother of impending doom. Colfer narrates his tale with ease, creating the illusion of more than one voice. Familiarity with previous installments is not completely necessary to follow the story; however, listeners will most likely want to hear the first two and will definitely be clamoring for the fourth due to the epic cliff-hanger. A great choice for fantasy and fractured fairy tales enthusiasts.–Amanda Schiavulli, Finger Lakes Library System, NY

GANSWORTH, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here. Listening Library. 2014. $55. ISBN 9780553395464. digital download.

Gr 9 Up– The year is 1975. Lewis Blake, a slightly built teen from the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, is enrolled in advanced classes at high school. Lewis suffers racist stereotyping and bullying from students and some teachers. When he meets George Haddonfield, the boys find common interests in music, especially the Beatles, but Lewis is wary of befriending someone off the rez. George, likewise, is reticent because, as a military “brat,” he moves frequently from base to base. Reservation life is depicted as having close family ties and social customs inaccessible to outsiders. George wants to break through, but Lewis’s shame blockades their attempts at true friendship. Meanwhile, Evan Reininger, a notorious bully, pursues Lewis relentlessly, managing to evade authorities at every instance. The plot crescendos during a massive blizzard, when characters must face their ineluctable realities. Teen popularity and academics serve as a backdrop to the conflicts in this tale of barriers, identities, and trust. The author’s narration is authentic, with Paul McCartney and Beatles song titles providing clever chapter headings. Gansworth manages an artful weave of social complexities representing reservation and “white” cultures with subtle humor to ease the tension. A full discography is provided for music fans. A worthy addition to fiction collections.–Robin Levin, Ft. Washakie School/Community Library, WY

GIBSON, Julia Mary. Copper Magic. Recorded Bks. 2014. $87.75. ISBN 9781490627557. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 5-9– It’s 1906, and 12-year-old Violet Blake feels abandoned. Her half-Odawa mother and brother are away, and she fears they may never return. She goes to the place where her mother would pick herbs and unearths a magical copper hand. She wishes for a new dress. When her wish is granted, she wishes for the return of her family. Will the hand be able to bring her family back together? Narrator Sandy Rustin’s detailed voices and distinct intonations are engaging and complement the author’s unique writing style. Interwoven plotlines are brought together expertly with a spellbinding effect. The author’s treatment of minorities, particularly Native Americans, is handled with great care. Readers who enjoy magic, adventure, historical fiction, and Scott O’Dell’s books will be whisked into Violet’s world.–Jessica Moody, Olympus Jr. High, Holladay, UT

LAWSON, Jessica. The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $39.99. ISBN 9781629239385. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 3-7– It’s 1860, and 11-year-old Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri. She’s looking for big-time adventure in this small town, and once she meets Sid Sawyer, it doesn’t take her long to find it. Pretty soon, she’s sneaking out after dark, stealing graveyard dirt at midnight, and keeping an eye out for dead cats to help her win a bet. The only obstacle standing between her and even more excitement is goody-goody tattletale Tom Sawyer. This fast-paced tale is the perfect introduction to Mark Twain’s classic characters, but readers who are already familiar with Tom, Sid, Becky, and the Widow Douglas will also appreciate this imaginative, pitch-perfect spin on their classic adventures. Narrator Tavia Gilbert does a phenomenal job. She portrays each character with a different voice, giving the impression that the novel is read by an entire cast of narrators instead of just one person. This fast-paced story is perfect for historical fiction and adventure fans.–Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

MANN, Jennifer K. Two Speckled Eggs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490634258. digital download.

PreS-Gr 2–Ginger wants to have a birthday party, but her mother insists the guest list be all-inclusive, which means including weird Lyla Browning, who smells like old leaves. No party equals no presents, so Ginger relents. Not surprisingly, Lyla’s gift is odd—two small candy eggs in a homemade bird’s nest. Yet when Ginger’s friends decide to play party games by their own rules (peeking during blindman’s bluff, pinning the donkey’s tail on one another) followed by mocking the birthday cake’s unusual flavor—pineapple and coconut—Ginger begins to notice that Lyla really is different, in all the best ways. Solid narration is provided by Michele O. Medlin, who slides easily between snide comments from Ginger’s friends to the sweetness of the two girls discovering genuine friendship. A second track with page-turning signals is included, making this a nice complement to the hardcover edition. This is a wonderful story on kindness, friendship, and the “gift” of individuality. A top pick.–Cheryl ­Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.